Sinead O’Connor plans training to become ‘death midwife’

Singer says death of close friend five years ago helped foster greater interest in end-of-life care

Singer Sinead O’Connor has said she will start training to become a “death midwife” later this month.

Her decision was not Covid-related, she told RTÉ Radio’s Ryan Tubridy show on Wednesday, adding there were many personal reasons, including the death of a close friend five years ago that led to a greater interest in end-of-life care.

“It’s not that I’m rushing to the front line, at all. I’m learning how to use Word. It’s that early in the game,” she said.

“First I’ve got to find out if I can write an assignment and can I do the practical work” and she ultimately wished to work in palliative care, she said.


The singer will start the online one-year diploma course on September 28th. “I had a whole year of shows booked, but they all got pulled because of Covid, and I wanted to do this course for a few years, but I never could find time free from touring, so I’m making use of the fact that I’m unemployed for the year.

“It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was a child, work in the area of palliative care, but when I was a child it was only the priests or nuns who did that, and God knows I didn’t want to be either of those,” O’Connor said.

“But there are also personal reasons, one of which is the first song I ever wrote in my life when I was 14 was exactly about this so the desire was there from then.

“A huge impetus for me was one of my best friends in the world died about five years ago, and he asked me one night would I sleep in the bed with him when he had found out he was dying, and I told him I would, but in the end I was too frightened and I didn’t, and I felt since then that I would never leave a person alone feeling frightened. I let my friend down very badly. That’s one of the more personal reasons,” she said.

“I learned from that never to leave a person alone. So my desire is to work with people who are particularly alone. I didn’t leave him alone for days – there were other people in the house, but I didn’t get into the bed and snuggle with him like he wanted because I was frightened.

“I was frightened of death and dying, of him dying. I’m sure all the training goes out the window when it’s someone that you are so closely attached to.”

O’Connor said it would take more training than just the one-year diploma. “Obviously it will take a few years, God knows you wouldn’t after one year be let loose on dying people. You would need a lot of training. I imagine it will be three or four years before I’m ready to do the work I want to do. Which is more or less being a death midwife.

“There’s a movement of these people called death midwives where they work with people who are frightened. The first step in becoming a death midwife is getting a diploma.”